Mystery of Orcival
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Description present you this new edition. On Thursday, the 9th of July, 186-, Jean Bertaud and his son, well known at Orcival as living by poaching and marauding, rose at three o'clock in the morning, just at daybreak, to go fishing.


Publié par
Date de parution 06 novembre 2010
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9782819933762
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0100€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


On Thursday, the 9th of July, 186-, Jean Bertaud andhis son, well known at Orcival as living by poaching and marauding,rose at three o'clock in the morning, just at daybreak, to gofishing.
Taking their tackle, they descended the charmingpathway, shaded by acacias, which you see from the station at Evry,and which leads from the burg of Orcival to the Seine.
They made their way to their boat, moored as usualsome fifty yards above the wire bridge, across a field adjoiningValfeuillu, the imposing estate of the Count de Tremorel.
Having reached the river-bank, they laid down theirtackle, and
Jean jumped into the boat to bail out the water inthe bottom.
While he was skilfully using the scoop, he perceivedthat one of the oar-pins of the old craft, worn by the oar, was onthe point of breaking.
“Philippe, ” cried he, to his son, who was occupiedin unravelling a net, “bring me a bit of wood to make a newoar-pin. ”
“All right, ” answered Philippe.
There was no tree in the field. The young man benthis steps toward the park of Valfeuillu, a few rods distant; and,neglectful of Article 391 of the Penal Code, jumped across the wideditch which surrounds M. de Tremorel's domain. He thought he wouldcut off a branch of one of the old willows, which at this placetouch the water with their drooping branches.
He had scarcely drawn his knife from his pocket,while looking about him with the poacher's unquiet glance, when heuttered a low cry, “Father! Here! Father! ”
“What's the matter? ” responded the old marauder,without pausing from his work.
“Father, come here! ” continued Philippe. “InHeaven's name, come here, quick! ”
Jean knew by the tone of his son's voice thatsomething unusual had happened. He threw down his scoop, and,anxiety quickening him, in three leaps was in the park. He alsostood still, horror-struck, before the spectacle which hadterrified Philippe.
On the bank of the river, among the stumps andflags, was stretched a woman's body. Her long, dishevelled lockslay among the water-shrubs; her dress— of gray silk— was soiledwith mire and blood. All the upper part of the body lay in shallowwater, and her face had sunk in the mud.
“A murder! ” muttered Philippe, whose voicetrembled.
“That's certain, ” responded Jean, in an indifferenttone. “But who can this woman be? Really one would say, thecountess. ”
“We'll see, ” said the young man. He stepped towardthe body; his father caught him by the arm.
“What would you do, fool? ” said he. “You oughtnever to touch the body of a murdered person without legalauthority. ”
“You think so? ”
“Certainly. There are penalties for it. ”
“Then, come along and let's inform the Mayor. ”
"Why? as if people hereabouts were not against usenough already!
Who knows that they would not accuse us— "
“But, father— ”
“If we go and inform Monsieur Courtois, he will askus how and why we came to be in Monsieur de Tremorel's park to findthis out. What is it to you, that the countess has been killed?They'll find her body without you. Come, let's go away. ”
But Philippe did not budge. Hanging his head, hischin resting upon his palm, he reflected.
“We must make this known, ” said he, firmly. “We arenot savages; we will tell Monsieur Courtois that in passing alongby the park in our boat, we perceived the body. ”
Old Jean resisted at first; then, seeing that hisson would, if need be, go without him, yielded.
They re-crossed the ditch, and leaving theirfishing-tackle in the field, directed their steps hastily towardthe mayor's house.
Orcival, situated a mile or more from Corbeil, onthe right bank of the Seine, is one of the most charming villagesin the environs of Paris, despite the infernal etymology of itsname. The gay and thoughtless Parisian, who, on Sunday, wandersabout the fields, more destructive than the rook, has not yetdiscovered this smiling country. The distressing odor of the fryingfrom coffee-gardens does not there stifle the perfume of thehoneysuckles. The refrains of bargemen, the brazen voices ofboat-horns, have never awakened echoes there. Lazily situated onthe gentle slopes of a bank washed by the Seine, the houses ofOrcival are white, and there are delicious shades, and a bell-towerwhich is the pride of the place. On all sides vast pleasuredomains, kept up at great cost, surround it. From the upper part,the weathercocks of twenty chateaux may be seen. On the right isthe forest of Mauprevoir, and the pretty country-house of theCountess de la Breche; opposite, on the other side of the river, isMousseaux and Petit-Bourg, the ancient domain of Aguado, now theproperty of a famous coach-maker; on the left, those beautifulcopses belong to the Count de Tremorel, that large park isd'Etiolles, and in the distance beyond is Corbeil; that vastbuilding, whose roofs are higher than the oaks, is the Darblaymill.
The mayor of Orcival occupies a handsome, pleasantmansion, at the upper end of the village. Formerly a manufacturerof dry goods, M. Courtois entered business without a penny, andafter thirty years of absorbing toil, he retired with four roundmillions of francs.
Then he proposed to live tranquilly with his wifeand children, passing the winter at Paris and the summer at hiscountry-house.
But all of a sudden he was observed to be disturbedand agitated. Ambition stirred his heart. He took vigorous measuresto be forced to accept the mayoralty of Orcival. And he acceptedit, quite in self-defence, as he will himself tell you. This officewas at once his happiness and his despair; apparent despair,interior and real happiness.
It quite befits him, with clouded brow, to rail atthe cares of power; he appears yet better when, his waist encircledwith the gold-laced scarf, he goes in triumph at the head of themunicipal body.
Everybody was sound asleep at the mayor's when thetwo Bertauds rapped the heavy knocker of the door. After a moment,a servant, half asleep, appeared at one of the ground-floorwindows.
“What's the matter, you rascals? ” asked he,growling.
Jean did not think it best to revenge an insultwhich his reputation in the village too well justified.
“We want to speak to Monsieur the Mayor, ” heanswered. “There is terrible need of it. Go call him, MonsieurBaptiste; he won't blame you. ”
“I'd like to see anybody blame me, ” snapped outBaptiste.
It took ten minutes of talking and explaining topersuade the servant. Finally, the Bertauds were admitted to alittle man, fat and red, very much annoyed at being dragged fromhis bed so early. It was M. Courtois.
They had decided that Philippe should speak.
“Monsieur Mayor, ” he said, “we have come toannounce to you a great misfortune. A crime has been committed atMonsieur de Tremorel's. ”
M. Courtois was a friend of the count's; he becamewhiter than his shirt at this sudden news.
“My God! ” stammered he, unable to control hisemotion, “what do you say— a crime! ”
"Yes; we have just discovered a body; and as sure asyou are here,
I believe it to be that of the countess. "
The worthy man raised his arms heavenward, with awandering air.
“But where, when? ”
“Just now, at the foot of the park, as we were goingto take up our nets. ”
“It is horrible! ” exclaimed the good M. Courtois;"what a calamity!
So worthy a lady! But it is not possible— you mustbe mistaken;
I should have been informed— "
“We saw it distinctly, Monsieur Mayor. ”
“Such a crime in my village! Well, you have donewisely to come here. I will dress at once, and will hasten off— no,wait. ” He reflected a moment, then called:
“Baptiste! ”
The valet was not far off. With ear and eyealternately pressed against the key-hole, he heard and looked withall his might. At the sound of his master's voice he had only tostretch out his hand and open the door.
“Monsieur called me? ”
“Run to the justice of the peace, ” said the mayor.“There is not a moment to lose. A crime has been committed— perhapsa murder — you must go quickly. And you, ” addressing the poachers,“await me here while I slip on my coat. ”
The justice of the peace at Orcival, M. Plantat—“Papa Plantat, ” as he was called— was formerly an attorney atMelun. At fifty, Mr. Plantat, whose career had been one of unbrokenprosperity, lost in the same month, his wife, whom he adored, andhis two sons, charming youths, one eighteen, the other twenty-twoyears old. These successive losses crushed a man whom thirty yearsof happiness left without defence against misfortune. For a longtime his reason was despaired of. Even the sight of a client,coming to trouble his grief, to recount stupid tales ofself-interest, exasperated him. It was not surprising that he soldout his professional effects and good-will at half price. He wishedto establish himself at his ease in his grief, with the certaintyof not being disturbed in its indulgence.
But the intensity of his mourning diminished, andthe ills of idleness came. The justiceship of the peace at Orcivalwas vacant, and M. Plantat applied for and obtained it. Onceinstalled in this office, he suffered less from ennui. This man,who saw his life drawing to an end, undertook to interest himselfin the thousand diverse cases which came before him. He applied tothese all the forces of a superior intelligence, the resources of amind admirably fitted to separate the false from the true among thelies he was forced to hear. He persisted, besides, in living alone,despite the urging of M. Courtois; pretending that society fatiguedhim, and that an unhappy man is a bore in company.
Misfortune, which modifies characters, for good orbad, had made him, apparently, a great egotist. He declared that hewas only interested in the affairs of life as a critic tired of itsactive scenes. He loved to make a parade of his profoundindifference for everything, swearing that a rain of firedescending upon Paris, would not even make him turn his head. Tomove him seemed impossible. “What's that to me? ” was hisinvariable exclamation.
Such was t

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